The monkeypox virus is spreading to several countries that do not normally report infections, including the United States.
The World Health Organization has declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, and US health officials are warning that the number of cases is likely to increase across the country.
As researchers continue to investigate the current outbreak, here’s what you should know about symptoms, spread and prevention, as well as the stigma and misinformation that can hamper public health efforts.
ABC-owned television networks have compiled reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ABC News’ Kiara Alfonseca and Mary Kekatos, and Associated Press Health Writer Matthew Perrone.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued the following guidelines regarding symptoms related to the current monkeypox outbreak in the United States:
You may experience all or just some of the symptoms of monkeypox.
Most people with monkeypox get a rash. Some people have developed a rash before (or without) flu-like symptoms.
Monkeypox symptoms usually begin within three weeks of exposure to the virus.
- Flu-like symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle and back pain, sore throat, cough, swollen lymph nodes, chills or fatigue.
- When someone has flu-like symptoms, they usually develop a rash 1-4 days later.
The rash can be on or near the genitals or anus, but it can also appear on other places, such as the hands, feet, chest, or face.
- The rash goes through several stages, including scabs, before it heals.
- The rash can look like pimples or blisters and be painful or itchy.
- The rash can also be on the body, including the mouth, vagina, or anus.
Monkeypox can be transmitted from the time symptoms appear until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed. This can take several weeks.
Infections with the type of monkeypox virus identified in this outbreak are rarely fatal.
Over 99% of people who get this form of the disease are likely to survive. However, people with compromised immune systems, children under the age of 8, people with a history of eczema, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be more likely to become seriously ill or die.
VIDEO: Man Recovering From Monkeypox Describes Symptoms, Experiences; Doctor answers questions
Click here for CDC US map & case number.
How is monkeypox transmitted?
According to the CDC, monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including:
- Direct contact with a monkeypox rash, scabs, or bodily fluids from a person with monkeypox. Health officials believe this is the most common way monkeypox is currently spreading in the United States
- Touching objects, fabrics (clothes, sheets, or towels), and surfaces used by someone with monkeypox.
- Contact with respiratory secretions.
This contact may take place during intimate contact, including:
- Oral, anal, and vaginal sex, or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus of a person with monkeypox.
- Hug, massage and kiss.
- Longer personal contact.
- Touching fabrics and objects during sex that have been used by a person with monkeypox that have not been disinfected, such as B. Linens, towels, fetish gear and sex toys.
Does it mainly affect gay and bisexual men?
Of the confirmed monkeypox cases reported around the world in countries that don’t typically have monkeypox, researchers have found that the vast majority are gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.
In the US, the CDC says most known cases of the current outbreak are in people who identify as gay or bisexual, but anyone can get it.
“Stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference on Saturday. “In addition to our recommendations to countries, I also call on civil society organizations, including those with experience working with people living with HIV, to work with us to combat stigma and discrimination.”
The parallels between the failures of the HIV/AIDS crisis – including slow government action and poor public relations that failed to contain the epidemic – have been highlighted by the growing impact of monkeypox on gay and bisexual people, activists say.
Before the outbreak, most cases occurred in countries where the virus is normally found or endemic – typically central and west Africa.
However, in the current outbreak, most of the spread is due to prolonged skin contact with the lesions or bodily fluids of infected individuals. The disease can also be transmitted from clothing or other fabrics, such as bed sheets, used by an infected patient.
If monkeypox is spread through sexual contact, is it a sexually transmitted disease?
Anyone can contract the virus, and despite misinformation circulating online, it is not a sexually transmitted disease or infection, although it can be transmitted through sexual contact.
“Let’s start with the naming and distinction between a sexually transmitted infection and a disease you can get from being intimate. These are two different concepts,” said Dr. Perry Halkitis, dean of Rutgers School of Public Health in New Jersey, told ABC News. “Syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia are sexually transmitted infections, but you can make out with someone as a precursor to sex and give them COVID. That doesn’t make COVID a sexually transmitted infection.”
He continued, “The same goes for monkeypox. Monkeypox is a disease that does not require sexual intercourse to be transmitted, and continuing to call it a sexually transmitted infection mischaracters how it is transmitted.”
Activists say misinformation about monkeypox can undermine public health efforts.
“The stigma associated with this disease and gay men is because this disease primarily affected and perpetuated the gay population,” Halkitis said. “I call [monkeypox] an infection or disease of connection and intimacy that you can get from your grandma or your child or from someone you don’t have sex with.”
LGBTQ activists say they’ve noticed a rise in homophobic or transphobic messages about monkeypox online, something doctors say people who have been diagnosed with monkeypox — LGBTQ or not — are reluctant to speak out about their illness.
“I’m sure there are monkeypox patients out there who are not coming forward or who are concerned they may have monkeypox or have been exposed to monkeypox, who are not contacting their healthcare providers or getting help because of the stigma that they are experiencing at a time where it’s really critical,” said Dr. Scott Roberts, assistant professor and associate medical director for infection prevention at Yale School of Medicine, told ABC News.
How to prevent monkeypox
The CDC offers the following steps to prevent monkeypox in the United States:
- Avoid close skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
- Do not touch the rash or scabs on a person with monkeypox.
- Don’t kiss, hug, cuddle, or have sex with someone with monkeypox.
- Do not share cutlery or cups with a person with monkeypox.
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Click here for the CDC’s recommendations for reducing the risk of infection during social gatherings and sexual contact.
What you should know about the monkeypox vaccination effort in the United States
Monkeypox is so closely related to smallpox that vaccine development has been going on for years.
Before the current outbreak, the US government already had a vaccine.
The two-dose regimen called Jynneos was approved in the US in 2019 and recommended as a treatment for monkeypox last year.
When the outbreak was first identified in May, US officials only had about 2,000 cans on hand.
Faced with opposition to the government’s response, US officials are now working to allocate over a million shots to states, cities and other locations. Some regional health departments say they still don’t have enough vaccines to meet demand.
Click here for details on which states and major cities received these cans.
Currently, the CDC recommends vaccinations for people who know they have been exposed to monkeypox or for people who have had multiple sexual partners in a location with known monkeypox in the past 14 days.
What treatments are there for monkeypox?
According to the CDC, “There are no treatments specifically for monkeypox virus infections. However, due to genetic similarities in the viruses, antiviral drugs used to treat smallpox infections can be used to treat monkeypox infections.”
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https://6abc.com/monkeypox-symptoms-vaccine-monkey-pox-rash/12079748/ What is monkeypox? Everything you need to know about symptoms, spread, vaccines and treatment